This was an unusual week in college football, as 5 of last week’s top 10 in these rankings had byes, and 3 others played relatively light competition. There was one top 10 matchup, between Florida State and Miami, and while that game was close at halftime, the Seminoles pulled away in the 2nd half. So the drama in this week’s rankings isn’t based on any big movers, but instead the battle for the 2nd spot between Florida State, who was 3rd last week but looked impressive in their win, and Oregon, who was 2nd last week, and didn’t play Saturday.
1. Alabama (8-0). The Tide went into their weekend off as the unthreatened top-ranked team, and even with Florida State’s impressive win, they remain a pretty solid #1 in the AP, Coaches, and Harris Polls, as well as the BCS Rankings (where it counts). Even still, nothing is guaranteed for the Tide, as they still have at least two tough games left (that’s before the SEC Championship). The first one comes this week, as the Tide host LSU in what has become one of the premier matchups in college football over the last handful of seasons. The second will be November 30 in the “Iron Bowl” rivalry game, at Auburn. The Tide have to win both of these games to win the SEC West, before they can even think about winning the SEC Championship Game or the BCS National Championship Game.
2. Florida State (8-0). The Seminoles, as they have done against everyone else, impressed with a 41-14 win over previously undefeated Miami. Freshman QB Jameis Winston faced more adversity in this game than he had in any previous contest, but he kept his composure and led his team to a convincing win. The best team they now have left on their schedule is Florida, which is a game in Gainesville on November 30. That game sounds tougher than it is, since the Gators are having a down year, by their standards (4-4). Beyond that, their toughest test will be their next two games (at Wake Forest, vs. Syracuse), against competition that likely won’t threaten the ‘Noles in any way. While that easy schedule may seem like a good thing for Florida State, it’s actually what may keep them out of the national championship picture in the end. Here’s why: While Florida State is currently #1 in the BCS computers (1/3 of the formula), Oregon, Ohio State, and maybe even Baylor will have a chance to potentially pass Florida State in the polls and the BCS if they win out because of more difficult schedules (keep reading to find out what’s left for these teams). That being said, the best thing the Seminoles can do is still to win, and win big, like they’ve been doing, and hope that will somehow be enough.
3. Oregon (8-0). I hate to punish Oregon for a bye week, as they drop from 2nd to 3rd in both the BCS and this ranking, but I’m going to do it. That’s the bad news for the Ducks. The good news is this: as mentioned, Florida State has an easy schedule the rest of the way, and in fact does not play a team that currently has a winning record the rest of the way (although 2 of their opponents are 4-4). Oregon doesn’t face a team with a losing record the rest of the way (although Utah is 4-4). However, all of this talk about who’s better between the Seminoles and Ducks won’t mean a thing if the Ducks don’t win Thursday night, in a huge primetime game at Stanford, ranked 5th in the BCS. Keep in mind that Oregon was in a similar position last year when they lost at home to Stanford, in overtime. The Ducks can’t be caught sleeping this week if they hope to pass the Seminoles and play for a national championship come January.
4. Ohio State (9-0). The Buckeyes certainly took care of business on Saturday with a 56-0 win at home against Purdue. They now head into a bye week with 3 regular season games remaining. First they will travel to Illinois, before hosting Indiana, and playing their big rivalry game on the road at Michigan. They would have to lose 2 out of 3 to not play in the Big Ten Championship Game, and if they have any hopes of a national title, they will need some help from the opponents of the teams ahead of them, and probably need Michigan State to win out and be 11-1 at the time of the Big Ten title game. The reason they’re not in the conversation, currently lagging behind the top 3, is their strength of schedule, and a close margin of victory in some of those games. Their best two wins are against Wisconsin, currently ranked 24th, and at Northwestern, who was 16th at the time of that game and played the Buckeyes very close, but hasn’t won in 4 games since then, currently sitting at 0-5 in Big Ten play.
5. Baylor (7-0). The Bears are an interesting team, boasting the nation’s top offense, both in points and yards gained, by a wide margin. QB Bryce Petty isn’t getting the coverage he should for the phenomenal year he is having. Baylor isn’t in the national title conversation, yet, because to this point they’ve played a pretty light schedule, with their best win to date coming at Kansas State. They will have an opportunity to change that Thursday night, when they host fellow top 10 team Oklahoma in Waco. If they can win that big contest, they will then travel to Dallas for a neutral site game with Texas Tech, followed by trips to Oklahoma State and TCU, before hosting Texas to finish the regular season. If the Bears can win all 5 of those games, they will have likely thrust themselves into the conversation to get higher up in the rankings.
6. Stanford (7-1). I’m skeptical that Stanford should be this high, but I’ve left them here anyway (I’m really skeptical they should be in 5th in the BCS). This uncertainty in my mind swirls around the loss on October 12 at Utah (who is currently 4-4, and hasn’t won since the upset). If the Cardinal were truly a top 5 team, why would they have lost at Utah. Additionally, the teams around them in the polls/BCS with 1 loss all lost to top 15 opponents (except for Oklahoma’s loss to Texas). Even still, the Cardinal were 6th last week, so I won’t punish them for their bye this past week. They have, after all, beaten 4 ranked opponents, although only 1 was on the road. They have what is easily their biggest game of the season (and probably one of the biggest in program history) on Thursday night when they host #3 Oregon.
7. Clemson (8-1). Clemson obliterated Virginia, 59-10, in an ACC road contest on Saturday. In addition, their 1 loss continues to look better, if that’s possible, as Florida State continues to roll over opponents, this time making Miami their victim. Speaking of rolling over opponents, that’s what Clemson has done in most of their games this year, with the exception of their aforementioned loss, as well as close wins against Georgia (back when they were healthy and a very legitimate team) as well as NC State and Boston College (head-scratchers). This week, the Tigers have a bye week before hosting a Thursday night game against Georgia Tech next week. After that, they will be through their conference schedule, leading into in-state games with The Citadel and South Carolina.
8. Oklahoma (7-1). Oklahoma moves up a spot during their bye week, jumping over Miami. While the strength of their win against Texas Tech was lessened slightly by Texas Tech’s loss to Oklahoma State, that win, along with one at Notre Dame, remains their best. That bye week I mentioned may pay dividends for the Sooners’ defense, who has had an extra week to prepare for the nation’s top-ranked offense when the Sooners travel to Baylor on Thursday night. In this game, the Sooners are 14-point road underdog, although I don’t think this spread shows how even the matchup should be. This game will likely knock one team out of Big 12 title contention. After the Bears, Oklahoma will get easier games against Iowa State and at Kansas State, before playing Oklahoma State in the “Bedlam” game.
9. Auburn (8-1). The Tigers move from 10th to 9th after jumping Miami. This is also the result of the Tigers taking care of business on the road at Arkansas, winning 35-17. While this is clearly their best team since the 2010 championship team, the Tigers are in no way guaranteed to hold this top 10 ranking. First, they play Tennessee this week in Knoxville (the last road team to play there was South Carolina, who lost 23-21). The next week they will host Georgia, who has only lost to Auburn once since 2005 (Cam Newton’s national championship team got that one win). After a bye, they will host Alabama, in a game that may be for the SEC West division title. That being said, coach Gus Malzahn will have his team ready for a tough November.
10. Missouri (8-1). Missouri re-enters the top 10 this week after falling out of it last week, after their loss to South Carolina. They climb back in due to two factors. One was Miami’s loss to Florida State. That being said, I might have still put Miami 10th if not for this second factor. The second is Missouri’s 31-3 win against Tennessee this week, proving their doubters wrong. This was a Tennessee team who had played other big SEC East opponents tough, losing in overtime to Georgia, before beating South Carolina. Missouri has a grip on the SEC East trophy, but it’s not a firm one (South Carolina and Georgia, in fact, have a hand on it, too). After a trip to Kentucky this week for what should be an easy win, they will travel to Ole Miss on November 23 and will host Texas A&M on November 30. They’ve been prepared for this tough stretch already, almost surviving a three-week stretch of Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina (they were “undefeated in regulation” in this stretch, with the lone loss coming in overtime).
Also considered: Miami (FL) (7-1), South Carolina (7-2), Texas A&M (7-2), LSU (7-2), Fresno State (8-0), Northern Illinois (9-0), Michigan State (8-1), Oklahoma State (7-1), UCF (6-1), Louisville (7-1).
Fell from rankings: Miami (FL) (7-1, lost to Florida State 41-14).